He was a shabby little old man, but his shabbiness was that of the country worker rather than the city poor. It was obvious that he had never been in a police station before.
"Do you want to make bond?" the desk sergeant asked.
"I don't," he quavered, and it was plain that he did not understand what a bond was.
"You can put up one hundred dollars cash to guarantee your appearance in court tomorrow morning," the sergeant explained.
"That's a heap of money," the prisoner protested.
"You can telephone someone to come down and make your bond."
"Don't know nobody."
"I'll have to lock you up, then." The sergeant turned to a patrolman. "Search him and take him downstairs."
The prisoner did not like the idea of being searched, and when the officer discovered and removed a cotton bag pinned beneath his shirt, he protested volubly.
"Give me back that, now. That's mine. You hain't no right to take it. You're a-robbin' me, and I won't stand for it."
The desk sergeant gasped. "Say, old man, don't you know it's dangerous to carry all that money with you?"
At these words a young man sitting in one corner of the cage threw aside his magazine, arose, and strolled up to the desk.
"How much dough has he got, Sergeant?"
The officer pointed to a pile of bills he had removed, from the cotton bag. "Must be at least five thousand dollars," he estimated.
"It's fifty-five hundred there," the prisoner corrected. "Silas Jones paid me that for my farm when me and Ma decided to move to town, Silas can tell you the same, and I'll thank you to give it back to me."
The police reporter for the Riverton Evening Star was interested. He read aloud from the docket: "'Henry Tucker, Nine-one-six Tenth Street, petty larceny.' What'd he steal, Sergeant?"
"About seventy cents' worth of groceries from that chain store at the corner of Tenth and Cherry streets."
"With all that money in his pockets!" the reporter marvelled.
"'Tain't so!" the prisoner shrilled indignantly. "I warn't tryin't' get away, like they said. I was lookin' for the feller in charge of that crazy store. I never stole nothin' in my life."
The reporter laughed. "He's probably telling the truth."
"Listen, old man." said the sergeant. "There's no need for you staying in jail when you have money to make bond." Very carefully and patiently he explained the nature of a bond, and finally the prisoner was made to understand that his one hundred dollars would be returned to him after his case had been heard in court.
"And do I get the rest of my money back now?" the prisoner asked.
"Yes, but you better take it to a bank before somebody robs you."
"I been aimin' to, but me and Ma just got here and I hain't had time t' pick me out a good bank."
The little old man pinned his money under his shirt again and departed. The reporter looked at the clock.
"Almost time for the edition," he said. "Guess I'll drag into the office."
"Wait a minute, Charlie," the sergeant called. He followed the reporter to the door. "I wouldn't print anything about this if I were you."
"Why not? It's a good little feature."
"If you publish that story the old man will be robbed of his life savings before morning."
The reporter hesitated. "Guess you're right, Sergeant," he agreed reluctantly, "but I hate to lay off. I could have made a good funny story out of him. However, I don't want to get the old man robbed."
Nevertheless, the final edition of the Evening Star carried the story on the front page under a two-column head. And, as the reporter suggested, it was a good little feature. He had made the most of his material, treating the incident humorously but sympathetically.
"Well, how'd you like my story, Sergeant?" the reporter asked on the following morning. "Wasn't it a good one?"
"Yes," the officer agreed unsmilingly, "it was a good story. But you promised me you wouldn't use it."
The reporter chuckled. "Well, I haven't seen the morning sheet, but I'll bet a buck our country friend wasn't robbed last night."
"No. He wasn't robbed."
"I thought not." The reporter was well pleased with himself. "You see, I followed the old man out of here, took him to a bank, and saw him deposit his fifty-four hundred. After that — "Something in the officer's face stopped him. "Why, what's wrong, Sergeant?"
"You should have mentioned the bank deposit in your story," the sergeant said in a tired voice; "Henry Tucker was murdered in front of his home last night. We found his bankbook in the gutter."